A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that reports that one party’s wrongful act or negligence caused another person’s death. This article will discuss wrongful death claims in Florida, what compensation may be available, and the statute of limits that determine when to file the lawsuit itself.
Wrongful Death Claims in Florida
As stated in Florida Statutes section 768.19, the family or estate of a deceased person has the right to bring a civil lawsuit to Florida’s courts and seek legal remedy if that person’s death was “caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract” of another party. In other words, the people who suffered loss have the right to seek compensation for the death and losses involving the case.
Who May Bring a Florida Wrongful Death Claim?
In Florida, the law requires that the person filing the wrongful death claim must be a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. This representative is most likely listed in the estate plan or the deceased person’s will. If these documents do not exist, the court will appoint a personal representative to handle the case.
While the personal representative may file the wrongful death claim, it is actually filed in service of the surviving family members and estate. Thus, the personal representative is required to list every surviving family member who has a share in the case.
These family members may include:
- the spouse, parents, and children, and
- any adoptive sibling or blood relative who is “partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services.
In Florida, a child (who is born to unmarried parents) may also recover damages from a wrongful death case if their mother dies. However, if the father dies, the child will only recover damages if the father had explicitly and formally recognized the child as his own. This formal statement would obligate him to support the child.
Filing a Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit & Time Limits
Every state has its legal time limits, also known as the statute of limitations, that define the specific amount of time a person is entitled to file a lawsuit. However, most states have also passed a separate statute that deals with wrongful death lawsuits.
In Florida, most wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years from the date of the death (Florida Statutes section 95.11(4)(d)). However, this deadline may also be postponed (or “tolled”) under very rare and specific conditions. If you are uncertain about how the statute of limitations would be applied to your case, be sure to discuss this matter with an experienced, reputable attorney as soon as possible.
If you miss the deadline outlined by the statute of limitations, you will, unfortunately, forfeit your right to bring the wrongful death lawsuit to court.
Florida Wrongful Death Cases & Damages
Because a wrongful death case is a civil claim, we know that they are brought to court by the deceased person’s estate or family—not the government. Typically, these claims are compensated in terms of money damages. So, while there may be a criminal case relating to the death, it does not pay for the surviving family members. Therefore, it is crucial to file a wrongful death lawsuit in addition to any filed criminal case to receive money.
According to Florida Statutes section 768.21, the damages the surviving family members may be compensated in wrongful death lawsuits include:
- the value of services or support provided by the deceased person to the surviving family member
- loss of guidance, protection, and companionship provided by the deceased person
- emotional and mental pain and suffering due to losing a child, and
- funeral or medical expenses the surviving members had to pay for the deceased person.
The estate of the deceased person may also recover certain types of compensation, including:
- lost benefits, wages, and other earnings (plus the value of lost earnings that the deceased person could have reasonably earned had they survived)
- lost value of earnings the estate could have received from the deceased person (had they lived), or in other words, “prospective net accumulations” of the estate
- funeral or medical expenses that were directly paid by the estate
Injury Assistance Law Firm is a personal injury claims lawyer in Orlando. As an Orlando personal injury lawyer, we know what it takes to win a case against an insurance company, and we can provide you with all the help you need to feel confident in your case. If you are interested in learning more, contact us today.